Vintage costume jewelry is a collectible item that also holds novelty and sentimental value for many people. This style of jewelry is categorized separately from fine jewelry, as it is made of inexpensive materials and imitation gems. Though often sold at a more accessible price point, some rare, high quality pieces can sell for thousands of dollars.
Costume jewelry has been around for almost 300 years, as jewelers began experimenting with inexpensive types of glass as early as the 19th century. Through the decades, costume jewelry styles have evolved due to changing social and political trends, typically mirroring the larger trends of the fine jewelry world.
By understanding the styles, pieces, and designers that each decade is known for, you’ll be able to enjoy wearing different vintage pieces and be better equipped to assess the potential value and historical significance of different types of costume jewelry.
Vintage Costume Jewelry from the 1920s
1920s costume jewelry at a glance:
- Typical pieces: long earrings, long and short necklaces, narrow bracelets, brooches
- Materials: white metals, clear and colored glass stones and beads, faux pearls, and marcasites
- Popular designers: Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli
The Roaring Twenties were an era of dramatic political and social change that brought a new fascination with costume jewelry. During this decade, the nation’s wealth more than doubled and there was a greater emphasis on consumerism than ever before. These shifts impacted the ways that women of this time looked and behaved, and affected their fashion choices.
During the 1920s, women began wearing their hair bobbed, creating the perfect opportunity to show off statement earrings. Long, dangling necklaces that enhanced the wearer’s neck and moved while they danced were popular. Pearls also came into fashion during this time period.
Much of the costume jewelry created during the 1920s was made with the intention of resembling precious jewels as closely as possible, which led to the use of materials like white metals, richly-colored stones, and faux pearls. The Art Deco movement also influenced the design of costume jewelry during this time, leading to pieces with strong color contrasts, geometric shapes, stylized motifs, and clean lines. Towards the end of the decade Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli popularized costume jewelry by creating in-demand pieces, elevating imitation accessories for decades to come.
Vintage Costume Jewelry from the 1930s
1930s costume jewelry at a glance:
- Typical pieces: double clips, double-clip brooches, pendant earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and brooches
- Materials: molded glass, Bakelite, inexpensive plastics
- Popular designers: Ciner, Trifari, Eisenberg, Coro, Boucher
During the 1930s, costume jewelry became a necessity due to the impact of the Great Depression on consumers’ disposable incomes. Most women could no longer afford to buy new clothes regularly and began to rely on accessories to help change up their aesthetic. An increased focus on accessorizing prompted jewelry makers to begin experimenting with new types of pieces. This led to the creation of the dress clip, which quickly became the quintessential jewelry piece of the decade.
The double clip brooch was invented in France as a piece of fine jewelry and was patented in the US. In 1933, Coro bought the rights to the patent and created their first Duettes in 1935. These pieces were often worn in pairs along the neckline or were added to hats, purses, and belts individually.
During this time period, Cartier and other fine jewelers produced pieces with baskets of fruit and flowers, known as “fruit salads” or “tutti frutti.” This prompted companies like Coro, Trifari, and Boucher to create lines inspired by these pieces using molded glass that mirrored the rubies, emeralds, and sapphires used in fine jewelry.
As this decade progressed, the Art Deco style evolved, leading to the Art Moderne or Streamline Modern styles. Many of the costume jewelry pieces of this decade are known for being whimsical and imaginative due to the influence of Surrealism on designers and the increased use of colorful, inexpensive plastics that became popular during this period.
Vintage Costume Jewelry from the 1940s
1940s costume jewelry at a glance:
- Typical pieces: brooches, bracelets, ear clips, necklaces, and double-clip brooches
- Materials: sterling silver, wood, leather, Bakelite, Lucite, natural shells, plaster, and ceramic
- Popular designers: Trifari, Weiss, Eisenberg, Hobe, Coro, Juliana, Ciner
When World War II began, the conflict had a big impact on both fashion and jewelry styles. Most notably, clothing styles became more masculine and sensible, while jewelry became a subtle, feminine addition to a look.
During this time period, women donned wide, three-dimensional bracelets and large brooches along the shoulders of their attire. Double-brooch clips remained popular, but evolved from geometric, symmetric sets to asymmetrical, three-dimensional pieces.
One of the biggest changes to costume jewelry during this time period was that sterling silver replaced base metals due to wartime restrictions. Seed pearls and imitation turquoise, coral, and jade were also used due to shortages during the war. Other notable materials during this time included wood, leather, Bakelite, Lucite, and plaster.
Despite the challenges of the war era, the costume jewelry industry continued to blossom during this time period. Sales reached an all time high and the number of design patents issued soared. The quality of pieces also improved greatly during this decade, as many jewelers switched away from creating fine jewelry during the Depression and many skilled workers fled Europe during the war.
Let Judy’s Jewelry Antique and Estate Jewelry, Fort Myers, FL Give You an Appraisal
We strive to make the experience with us as pleasurable as possible. We will test and examine all your jewelry and coins to determine what the value is, and make you a fair offer. We can help you liquidate your estate. We also buy costume jewelry, vintage jewelry, as well as other collectibles including oil paintings and other art work. Contact Sal at Judy’s Antique and Estate Jewelry today and schedule an appointment to bring in your items for an appraisal. You can reach us by phone at (239) 481-9600 or visit our website at https://judysjewelry-fortmyers.com/
We understand that liquidating your estate can be a large project. Because of this, we make house calls, and will come out to you if that makes it easier for you! Just call Sal at 239-481-9600. Click on the title above for more information on getting your items appraised by us. With over 30 years of experience as SWFL Estate Dealers in Fort Myers you can expect expert customer service. We are the biggest buyers of antique, vintage and costume jewelry, gold, silver, diamonds, coins and other precious metals in SWFL.
We buy military and historical artifacts, antiques, oil paintings, marble statues, vintage and antique toys, select antique furniture, jade, porcelain, unique collectibles and more. We pay cash for the items we buy from you.